Category Archives: Environment

Local, county and state governments are suing oil companies over climate change

Source: Patrick Parenteau, The Conversation, July 5, 2018

Thanks to climate change, sea levels are rising and storm surges are becoming more costly and frequent. Since most American state and local governments are cash-strapped, cities and counties fear that they won’t be able to afford all the construction it will take to protect their people and property.

So some communities in California and Washington state, as well as New York City, are suing oil companies in a bid to force them to foot the bill. Recently, Rhode Island became the first state to take this step, when it sued 21 oil and gas companies “for knowingly contributing to climate change and the catastrophic consequences to the State and its residents, economy, eco-system, and infrastructure.”

Does it make sense to hold the industries responsible for global warming liable for the price – in dollars and cents – that everyone will have to pay to adapt to a changed climate?

As a scholar of environmental law, I believe climate liability cases like these have merit…..

Wind farms bring windfalls to local governments across US

Source: Francis A Mamo, Swami Venkataraman, Lesley Ritter, Mark McIntire, Rachel Cortez, Leonard Jones, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, May 8, 2018
(subscription required)

The proliferation of wind farms in the US has propelled tax base growth and generated new tax revenue for local governments, particularly in rural areas with abundant wind resources.

Job versus environment: an examination on the attitude of union members toward environmental spending

Source: Meng-jieu Chen, Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Volume 19, Issue 4, October 2017

From the abstract:
There seems to be a widespread perception in the United States that labor union members are indifferent or even hostile to environmental protection efforts. Previous work on the nature of the relationship between labor unions and environmentalists, mostly drawn from case studies and interviews with union leaders, has not reached consistent conclusions. To provide a realistic examination of the relationship, we apply an empirical analysis to investigate attitudes of individual union members toward the stringency of environmental policies. Using the General Social Survey, we examine grass-root union members’ preferences for public environmental spending options. Contrary to prevailing perceptions of conflict, we find a positive association between union membership and the choosing to increase environmental spending. Further, investigating the environmental attitude of union members in heavily regulated industries, we do not find evidence to support the argument that these laborers tend to be unfavorable toward environment. Our results also suggest that the level of regulation an industry is facing does not appear to have a statistically significant effect on respondent’s choice of environmental spending.

Violation Tracker – September 2017 update

Source: Good Jobs First. September 19, 2017

From the press release:
An expansion of Violation Tracker, the first public database of corporate crime and misconduct in the United States, now makes it possible to access details of cases ranging from the big business scandals of the early 2000s during the Bush administration through those of the Trump administration to date. …. The expansion nearly doubles the size of Violation Tracker to 300,000 entries, which together account for more than $394 billion in fines and settlements. As a measure of how corporate crime is concentrated within big business, 95 percent of those penalty values were assessed against only 2,800 large parent companies whose subsidiaries are linked together in the database. Approximately 200,000 smaller businesses account for the remaining five percent of the dollar total. ….

Related:
Agency Data Sources
User Guide and Webinar
Update Log

Fetal death rate in Flint rose 58% after lead crisis

Source: George Diepenbrock, Futurity, September 21, 2017

Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis resulted in fewer babies born there—the result of reduced fertility rates and higher fetal death rates—compared to other Michigan cities during that time, research shows.

Since 2014, Flint—which was once an automobile manufacturing powerhouse outside of Detroit—has faced a major public health emergency due to lead poisoning in the local water supply when the city temporarily used the Flint River as its primary source. The crisis has affected thousands of residents, and some officials in Michigan face criminal charges related to events there. ….

Related:
The Effect of an Increase in Lead in the Water System on Fertility and Birth Outcomes: The Case of Flint, Michigan
Source: Daniel Grossman and David Slusky, University of Kansas, Working Papers Series in Theoretical and Applied Economics, No 201703, August 7, 2017

From the abstract:
Flint changed its public water source in April 2014, increasing lead exposure. The effects of lead in water on fertility and birth outcomes are not well established. Exploiting variation in the timing of births we find fertility rates decreased by 12%, fetal death rates increased by 58% (a selection effect from a culling of the least healthy fetuses), and overall health at birth decreased (from scarring), compared to other cities in Michigan. Given recent efforts to establish a registry of residents exposed, these results suggests women who miscarried, had a stillbirth or had a newborn with health complications should register.

People of color breathe more air pollution

Source: Jennifer Langston-Washington, Futurity, September 17, 2017

People of color are exposed to more pollution from cars, trucks, and power plants than whites, a new 10-year study shows. Researchers estimated exposure to outdoor concentrations of a transportation-related pollutant—nitrogen dioxide (NO2)— in both 2000 and 2010, based on neighborhoods where people live and found that disparities in NO2 exposure were larger by race and ethnicity than by income, age, or education. Further, that relative inequality persisted across the decade. While absolute differences in exposure to the air pollutant dropped noticeably during that time period for all populations, the relative difference—or the percent difference between pollution levels to which white people and people of color were exposed—narrowed only a little…..

…..If people of color had breathed the lower NO2 levels experienced by whites in 2010, it would have prevented an estimated 5,000 premature deaths from heart disease among the nonwhite group, researchers say…..

Related:
Changes in Transportation-Related Air Pollution Exposures by Race-Ethnicity and Socioeconomic Status: Outdoor Nitrogen Dioxide in the United States in 2000 and 2010
Source: Lara P. Clark, Dylan B. Millet, and Julian D. Marshall, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 125 no. 9, September 2017

From the abstract:
BACKGROUND:
Disparities in exposure to air pollution by race-ethnicity and by socioeconomic status have been documented in the United States, but the impacts of declining transportation-related air pollutant emissions on disparities in exposure have not been studied in detail.

OBJECTIVE:
This study was designed to estimate changes over time (2000 to 2010) in disparities in exposure to outdoor concentrations of a transportation-related air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), in the United States.

METHODS:
We combined annual average NO2 concentration estimates from a temporal land use regression model with Census demographic data to estimate outdoor exposures by race-ethnicity, socioeconomic characteristics (income, age, education), and by location (region, state, county, urban area) for the contiguous United States in 2000 and 2010.

RESULTS:
Estimated annual average NO2 concentrations decreased from 2000 to 2010 for all of the race-ethnicity and socioeconomic status groups, including a decrease from 17.6 ppb to 10.7 ppb (−6.9 ppb) in nonwhite [non-(white alone, non-Hispanic)] populations, and 12.6 ppb to 7.8 ppb (−4.7 ppb) in white (white alone, non-Hispanic) populations. In 2000 and 2010, disparities in NO2 concentrations were larger by race-ethnicity than by income. Although the national nonwhite–white mean NO2 concentration disparity decreased from a difference of 5.0 ppb in 2000 to 2.9 ppb in 2010, estimated mean NO2 concentrations remained 37% higher for nonwhites than whites in 2010 (40% higher in 2000), and nonwhites were 2.5 times more likely than whites to live in a block group with an average NO2 concentration above the WHO annual guideline in 2010 (3.0 times more likely in 2000).

CONCLUSIONS:
Findings suggest that absolute NO2 exposure disparities by race-ethnicity decreased from 2000 to 2010, but relative NO2 exposure disparities persisted, with higher NO2 concentrations for nonwhites than whites in 2010.

A Curated List of Environmental Laws That Both Protect The Environment and Support Economic and Job Growth

Source: USC Schwarzenegger Institute, Digital Environmental Legislative Handbook, 2017

Laws that protect the environment and the health of citizens, while simultaneously supporting economic and job growth, are being passed in state legislatures across the United States. These laws are more important than ever before and, increasingly, the work being done at the subnational level is having an impact on national and global decision making. The USC Schwarzenegger Institute and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators have partnered with one another to create this online resource that will help state legislators throughout America learn from their colleagues in other states. We hope to assist legislators who are interested in advancing smart environmental policies by sharing best practices and actual legislation that is working successfully in a number of states already.

Governor Schwarzenegger has long insisted that voters aren’t interested in Republican air or Democrat air but instead simply want clean air. That belief has guided our thought process when choosing the legislation to include in this database. We believe that lawmakers from both political parties and all 50 states will be able to use this resource to find creative legislative solutions to many of the environmental and public health issues facing the people and communities they represent.

This list, although extensive, is by no means complete. We look forward to expanding the list of legislation shared on this website and encourage you to recommend bills from your respective states that you believe can be helpful to legislators elsewhere in America.

BROWSE BILLS BY CATEGORY:
Air Quality
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Human Health
Climate Change